- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

Two new surveys say there are fewer than one-third the number of Muslims in the United States as Islamic groups have claimed, prompting protests from those organizations.
"Muslims are an important part of our religious community in America, but they do not appear to be as large a part as once reported," Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago said in an interview yesterday.
Mr. Smith, who has reviewed 10 national surveys and 24 estimates made on the Muslim population in the past 20 years, concluded that despite claims of 7 million Muslim in the United States today, there are no more than 1.9 million to 2.8 million.
A second recent study by a sociologist at the City University of New York put the U.S. Muslim population at 1.1 million adults and 650,000 children. Compared to a 1990 version of the consumer survey, he said, the new data shows the Muslim population doubled in the past 10 years.
In his report, Mr. Smith said, "Even if high-side estimates based on local surveys, figures from mosques, and ancestry and immigration statistics are given more weight … it is hard to accept estimates that Muslims are greater than 1 percent of the population, or 2,814,000."
Of 20 estimates that have been made by Muslim groups in the past five years, the Smith report said, "All can probably be characterized as guesses or assertions."
The report, "Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States," was published by the American Jewish Committee, prompting Muslim groups to protest Jewish involvement in the study.
The American Muslim Council (AMC) said the survey amounted to Jewish groups "persecuting the persecuted," since Muslims have faced some discrimination after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Yesterday, the AMC circulated copies of the sharp exchanges between Muslim spokesmen and Jewish organizations over the survey flap.
It was circulated so AMC supporters "may see the issue of our strength as American Muslims in the political arena and to realize the importance of the community's support for the [AMC] as your voice in accurately representing" their numbers and interests.
Earlier this year, the AMC issued a survey that claimed there are 7 million Muslims in the United States.
That survey began with the assumption, based on internal numbers from Muslim groups, that 2 million Muslims affiliate with 1,200 U.S. mosques. From there, the number was raised to 7 million to account for estimates of family members and non-affiliated Muslims.
Sociologist Egon Mayer of City University of New York announced his finding based on a recurring consumer survey that polled 50,000 American households over the past six months.
In order to get a handle on Muslim numbers, Mr. Smith, an analyst of population data at the National Opinion Research Center, also reviewed Immigration and Naturalization Service data and the "country of origin" data in the U.S. census.
Neither source designates religious affiliation, but immigration patterns "can be used as a check" against exaggerated claims, Mr. Smith said.
He said the possible range of numbers of Muslim emigrating from countries with large Islamic populations "straddled" the high and low estimates seen in surveys, but did not suggest overwhelmingly high numbers.

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